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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

The Wrath Of Sandy; Flood And Flames Destroy 80 Homes; Stranded On New York Barrier Island; Rescue Workers Evacuate New Jersey Residents; Sandy Devastates Staten Island; Sandy Spawns Blizzard In West Virginia

Aired October 30, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the scene of devastation in Sandy's aftermath. Tonight, the death toll rising as we get a clearer picture of the damage across the east coast. We'll take you to a neighborhood wiped out during a fierce fire sparked by Sandy.

Plus, the threats that still remain, a collapsed crane still dangling tonight over Manhattan, an area where tonight some people are trapped, surrounded by water.

And the other side of the storm, a blizzard. We're going to take you to where an incredible amount of snow is causing major problems tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the wrath of Sandy. When we all opened our eyes this morning after experiencing first-hand the unrelenting power of last night's record- breaking hurricane, the morning light revealed unimaginable destruction in Sandy's wake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: Make no mistake about it. This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst that we have ever experienced.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY: The level of devastation at the Jersey Shore is unthinkable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The death toll tonight, at least 30 people have died across eight states. Nearly 8 million people in the northeast and the mid Atlantic are without power tonight, and the estimated costs of the storm, and it's only fair to say, this is only preliminary, given that the destruction is still being evaluated.

Right now, we're already looking at as much as $20 billion, and that is only for lost business and property damage. The destruction is not over, because look at this picture. This is Little Ferry, New Jersey. Floodwaters have turned neighborhoods into islands there. For many people, the only way out is by boat. Of course, there have been rescues of the stranded residents happening on live television today.

Now about 10 miles southeast of that picture is a town called Hoboken, New Jersey where we received this I-Report of the record- breaking flooding in that town. Parts of that city are still under water right now.

And as you can see from this next picture, which was just sent to us by one of the senators from New Jersey, Bob Menendez, it's just pretty incredible and you see the water and the flooding. And it hasn't receded like it did in some places.

In Queens, New York, a storm-related fire burned through an entire neighborhood, destroying 80 homes. And today I went out there. We drove to see the destruction for ourselves, and we saw emergency vehicles everywhere.

And I'm not talking, everyone, just about fire trucks and a few ambulances. At one point on the way to Breezy Point, New York, which is where this happened, we passed a convoy of 19 ambulances, 19 ambulances all heading in to help that tight knit community, which was hit with flooding and then fire.

Deb Feyerick is still out there tonight. And Deb, I know it is a chaotic scene. So can you tell us what's happening right now?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, you know what's interesting? Think about it, Erin, 24 hours ago, that's the point when that huge seven to ten-foot wave slammed into this part of Breezy Point.

We are now learning, according to the NYPD that a police officer did die in this area. Details right now coming in o we're trying to get additional details. But think about it, 24 hours ago, all of these homes, they were standing.

This is the car, the heat, the intensity, extraordinary. Now we can see a couple of chimneys. We can see the foundations of buildings and, again, these burned-out vehicles. It is so dark, Erin, right now.

And that's because all of the electricity in this entire area is out. They don't know what started the fire yet, whether it was a transformer that simply blew starting this blaze, or whether, in fact, it was some of the power lines, can't even make out the power lines at this hour of the night.

Or I should say in this darkness, whether it was some of the electrical wires that simply triggered it. One house and then it simply spread, house after house, catching fire, really, a remarkable sight.

Witnesses who were here said it looked like a mini Hiroshima. Another saying it was a war zone. Those fire trucks coming, trying to put out the fires, they simply couldn't get here. There was five feet of water. They couldn't reach the homes that were burning. It was simply inaccessible.

They just had to stand and watch as it burned even though all through the night, those fire trucks kept coming and coming and coming. One person saying it sounded like the blitz in World War II.

But the extent of the devastation, that's how significant it is and so right now people are trying to rebuild. We spoke earlier to a family. They were here. They have been here for generations and they lost several homes in this fire, Erin. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The exterior of the house is destroyed, and I -- not only from the fire melt, but also from the surge, the tidal surge that happened here, like the exterior, things just thrown around. And as we walked around, we could see that. It was not just devastation from the fire that's here. It's from the tidal surge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so devastating to be here, to see this. Because it's -- it's like a war zone to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: We'll talk for a little bit -- we're losing cell phone service here. There is really no cell phone service in this entire area. As a matter of fact, we've been working off of one cell phone, virtually, all day.

But the weather is now getting much, much colder. As we told you, they have not yet mounded a full search and rescue. But word coming from the NYPD this evening that in fact a police officer did lose his life.

We don't know whether it was someone who was part of a rescue team. We don't know whether it was somebody who was living here, trying to save people. We're trying to get some more details on that, Erin.

But we can tell you, just looking at this car, in this particular area, this is the starting point, the flooding homes, the homes that have flooded, they too have sustained damage, which just by looking at it seemed irreparable. A number of homes, most likely, will have to simply be bulldozed and this area rebuilt -- Erin.

BURNETT: Deb, let me ask you a question. You were showing a family you had a chance to speak with. But with the 80 homes that were burned, where are the other people who own those homes? I know some of them were second homes. Are all of the people accounted for tonight?

FEYERICK: OK, I lost it --

BURNETT: OK, obviously, as you heard Deb saying, they had trouble with communications, only having one cell phone. So she obviously didn't hear me. If we get an answer to that though, of course, I'll share it with you later on in the hour.

There are more than 100 people tonight trapped on another island called Fire Island. It's a narrow barrier island off of Long Island. And right now rescuers can't even reach residents who are stuck, because all of the marinas on the islands have been completely destroyed.

Earlier I spoke to Karen Boss. She is stranded on the island and I asked her what the situation was like on the island outside her home right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREN BOSS, STRANDED ON FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK (via telephone): At this point right now, the bay side is subsiding, the water is going down. And the ocean also has backed down. I have no power. I have a generator in my home. There is no electric in my community. There is no water in my community.

BURNETT: And how much food and water do you have? I mean, I know that especially when you look at the electricity situation or how long it could take for help to come, I mean, how long could you be there?

BOSS: I have a generator, so my refrigerator is -- well, I'm a year-round resident. So I'm always stocked up. I don't know when help will get here. The main concern is obviously to get water and electricity. There are a lot of downed power lines, a lot of debris. There is a lot of downed trees, a lot of devastation on the ocean homes and on the boardwalk.

BURNETT: Have you been given any indication of when you could be rescued at this point, or literally it's just -- it's still silent?

BOSS: We were told they would try to get people here by noon today, but that did not happen.

BURNETT: And when officials over the weekend said you should evacuate, tell me why you didn't. I know this is a really hard choice for you. Why did you make the decision to stay, Karen?

BOSS: I made the decision to stay because this is my only home. My husband and I, we have a business here. They never called for anything more than a Category 1 in a hurricane.

So I felt confident. We've been through storms. We've been through nor'easters, that my house is high enough. I'm not on the ocean and I didn't feel the need to go.

BURNETT: Well, you've lived in Fire Island for 20 years, your husband for nearly 40 years, if I'm correct. Have you ever seen anything like this in the entire time you've been there?

BOSS: No, I have never seen it this bad. I don't believe my husband has either. Even through Hurricane Gloria, I don't think he felt it was as bad as this. BURNETT: And will you be able to rebuild and stay?

BOSS: The Fire Island community is very persevering. We will all rebuild. We will all get back to hopefully where we were, if not better.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: A message of hope there from Karen. Let's go to New Jersey now where the Coast Guard has been busy all day trying to rescue people trapped by floodwaters.

Brian Todd is in Teterboro, New Jersey where there is also a shelter. Brian, let me ask you. Are there still rescues going on right now? I know we have seen some of them during the day, but is it still happening?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, they were happening until a short time ago. But they said when the darkness came, they would have to stop for the night, because it's just too dangerous to go in there.

So you're talking about maybe a little over an hour ago when they just had to call of the search and rescues. But they were going on all last night, and all during the day up until darkness fell.

So you're talking just about an hour ago they had to stop it for the night. They'll go in at first light again tomorrow, because the floodwaters are still there on those three towns we're talking about Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt, New Jersey.

They were pretty much engulfed in flood waters in the matter of just a couple of minutes after a berm or levee was breached for the Hackensack River. A tidal surge from the storm basically was too much for these berms to hold.

It breached it within minutes. Those three towns were engulfed in water, four to six feet of water on the street, pretty much all over those three towns. People were being pulled from rooftops. They were swift water rescue teams sent in there by boat.

High clearance vehicles were sent in there. Some of them had to be turned back. The fortunate thing is, as of now, no deaths or injuries. But as I said, as of a short time ago, they were still going door to door, looking for people.

They're going to have to do that again tomorrow morning. We spoke to an elderly woman who lost her home. Her name is Mildred Schwartz, 91 years old. She has lived in Moonachie, New Jersey, her entire life. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILDRED SCHWARTZ, MOONACHIE, NEW JERSEY: I've never seen anything like this, ever.

TODD: Can you describe what happened when the water came? SCHWARTZ: We were sleeping, my daughter and I.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And unfortunately, some of the people who may still be in those towns aren't out of the woods yet. We were told by a city official that river kind of brings another high tide in, right about now in the evening.

And so they may not be out of the woods yet. They won't be as devastating as the initial surge that flooded the area, but they are getting another high tide right about now -- Erin.

BURNETT: Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Still OUTFRONT, left hanging, crumpled metal dangles right now, hundreds of feet above New York, forcing evacuations and stopping traffic.

And Sandy's effect on the presidential election, it could be significant. Who benefits?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, Sandy devastates Staten Island. That borough of New York City has seen some of the worst damage in New York. Six people were killed there. Two residents died in the Tottenville section when two homes were completely ripped from their foundations.

Shelters and hospitals lost power at the height of the storm. Large areas are still in the dark there tonight. Congressman Michael Grimm, part of his district is Staten Island and he's on the phone from the Brooklyn part of that district tonight.

Good to talk to you, Congressman, certainly not under these circumstances though. Obviously, I know you've been on the ground during much of day visiting your district and talking to residents. How are things?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK (via telephone): People are devastated. Obviously, we've had significant loss of life, which, you know, devastates a community. And, of course, the damage is much greater than anyone anticipated.

It really is a surreal scene to see very large boats, you know, in the middle of your block, in front of your house, cars displaced on people's lawns that just came with the waves and homes literally being ripped right out from the foundation.

There's nothing. They look like -- they look like lots with debris over them. Again, it's something that you would expect in a movie scene.

BURNETT: One of the stories last night that shocked us and many of our viewers was when a hospital in Manhattan, the New York University Lango Medical Center lost its back up power had and to actually evacuate patients. I know the Richmond University Medical Center in your district. You were there until about 2:00 in the morning --

GRIMM: Yes.

BURNETT: I know that there were questions there about power because they have been running on generator now for nearly a day. Are they going to be all right?

GRIMM: Yes, I believe Richmond University Medical Center -- Con- Ed, by the way, they have been unbelievable. They are incredibly responsive and just wonderful, wonderful people working nonstop. They have done everything they can to get Richmond University back online.

I believe at least three quarters of the hospital is back on Con- Edison's power. We're still working I think for Staten Island University across the street where they do all the dialysis. We're waiting to get that back online because that's extremely important.

There are a lot of dialysis patients in all of these four different dialysis centers. They are all down and out of power. So there is going to be a lot of patients that need to have their dialysis tonight and tomorrow.

And that's going to be pretty much mandatory medically. It's not something they can elect to wait another day or two. A lot of them have been waiting two or three days already.

BURNETT: And in terms of shelters, I know a shelter out where you are has already lost power.

GRIMM: Yes.

BURNETT: Is it possible that things could get worse than they are? I know a lot of people say the destruction is terrible. Now people have to build their way out. But there's still people missing, still people who don't have water, still people in shelters without power. I mean, what is the risk from here?

GRIMM: There's no question. I mean, one of the things we have to do is there's some people just unaccounted for. And that means they could be at a shelter somewhere and their family is still looking for them, so we're looking at that.

You know, Midland Beach was one of the areas that got hit hardest and as of several hours ago, they were still doing rescues from Midland Beach. Curtis high school, I was just at Curtis, they do need some food.

We're trying to get them an electrician to help hook up their generator because they're in the dark, working off flashlights. So I just picked up some food, I'm going to be delivering that to them. Within a half hour, they'll have some hot food.

But I'm working the phones. The problem -- biggest problem I'm having is communications. The -- it's one of the reasons I'm in Brooklyn right now. The cell phone towers, some of them must have gone down, because we're having trouble getting anyone on their cell phone.

And obviously the home phones without power are not on. So it's a big communications issue and that's why we've been having some trouble getting an electrician to hook up their generator.

BURNETT: All right, Representative Grimm, thank you very much for taking the time. And we experienced that today going out to Breezy Point where Deb Feyerick was.

Cell phone service in and out and intermittent as well as just what you all can imagine the life on city streets when there is no power, it's impossible for traffic to move and things become incredibly snarled making it even more difficult even for emergency responders to get to some of these neighborhoods in major dire need.

OUTFRONT next, the other side of the storm, a winter blast and it's covering residents in feet of snow.

And subway in New York City becomes a swamp. This is the first time ever.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT, Sandy also spawning a blizzard. The high winds coming off the storm have the potential to blanket parts of West Virginia with as much as three feet of snow.

Flood and blizzard warnings are all still in effect. Martin Savidge is in Terra Alta, West Virginia. I mean, these scenes are pretty hard, Martin, just to imagine. I mean, not just as part of the hurricane, but that amount of snow at one time. How much more snow is expected?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's a very good question, Erin. You know, you talk a look as we walk here. This is very heavy stuff. I'm actually walking on top of snow. There's probably got a good two feet or so. How much snow? We don't really know.

They're projecting in some areas of the state, maybe two feet, maybe three feet. Another nine inches of snow here perhaps. They have just extended the blizzard warnings for this area. They were to expire at 6:00. Now they're going all the way until 6:00 tomorrow evening.

Snow continuing to come in, the wind continuing to blow, the snowdrifts continue to build and the power also continues to be a problem. You see the tree behind us here. You can see how it's coated.

Well, imagine all the trees in this area absolutely packed, and loaded down with all of that snow, very heavy, wet snow. The trees are coming down. The power lines are coming down and that's what's causing the circumstance here to be just so dire as we head into the night time hours.

Good news in Kingwood, they have turned the lights back on, but in many other areas, over 250,000 without electricity in this state so far, only one fatality. There is some good news. They talk about opening the ski resorts, which is the only bright spot, I think.

BURNETT: I guess so. Obviously, that -- once things are better, have an economic boost. But Martin, have they accounted for everybody? I mean, I know they weren't expecting anything like this and a lot of people weren't. Just like we're seeing with floodwater, you may be seeing with snow, a lot of people who haven't been accounted for yet.

SAVIDGE: Well, and that's one of the reasons the National Guard has been called out in certain areas, to assist local law enforcement. In some cases, they're literally going door to door, checking on the welfare.

They have also brought out heavy equipment to help with the removal of snow, because it's so heavy, it just a plow that can move it anymore. You need earth-moving equipment. So far, they are hoping people are staying put.

As far as trying to account for anybody, they don't have anybody known to be missing and they don't have any rescue operations under way, but they will admit it will get worse tonight before it will get better.

BURNETT: All right, Martin Savidge, thank you very much reporting for us from West Virginia.

Up next, a 250,000 pound crane, it is still tonight dangling 90 stories above Midtown Manhattan. The question is, can it be brought down safely? We have someone who knows that answer.

And floating cars and flooded subways have brought a large part of New York City to a standstill, one of the greatest subway systems in the world and relied upon by millions to make this city function. It's shutdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start the second half of our show with stories we're watching and focusing on our reporting from the front lines.

First, we are learning more about an off-duty police officer killed during last night's storm. CNN reported earlier that the officer was killed during the massive fire in Breezy Point, Queens. It turns out the officer died in Staten Island while trying to help to save his family from rising floodwaters.

The stock market was closed today. That does not stop Ford from coming out with its quarterly numbers, though, and they were better than analysts were looking for. The company earned $1.6 billion in the quarter, and the bright spot was actually right here at home, North America. The best results for ford in North America since they started breaking it out back in the year 2000. That's really good news.

Europe, though, still pretty terrible. Last week, it warned it would lose more than $1.5 billion in Europe this year.

Well, the European Union is considering sending troops to Mali to train soldiers. According to reports, an estimated 200 troops could be sent in to provide training to Mali's army. They're not going to go in to fight. That means there will be questions about how effective they could be.

But the move comes on the heels of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to Algeria where the crisis was the focus. She is trying to secure Algerian support for any international military action that could be needed to oust the al Qaeda-linked rebels which have taken over the northern part of the country.

Well, the American intelligence community managed to trim its budget. According to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the budget for intelligence programs in fiscal 2012 was $53.9 billion. Sounds like a heck of a lot of money, but it's the first time the intelligence budget has been cut since the September 11th attacks.

The drop was very small. It was only 1 percent. But it is a trend worth noting, because it will probably continue, at least this year. It's set to drop another 2.4 percent.

Well, NASA's rover Curiosity is at Mars working. NASA announced today the Curiosity finished its initial examination of Martian soil. The results are pretty similar to volcanic soil found in the paradise of Hawaii.

Curiosity used the chemistry and meteorology instrument to get the results. To determine what it was made of, the instrument beamed X-rays at the soil, sort of what geologists use right here on Earth. Pretty interesting there were similarities.

It's been 453 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, more results from Ford will do it. We also had auto housing report today. And according to that, home prices rose in August, 2 percent from a year ago. That's the Case-Shiller index.

And now, a 250,000-pound crane is dangling 90 stories above Midtown Manhattan, just a few blocks were here. It's threatening to wreak further havoc in a city already under siege from the hurricane.

This is the actual moment. I just wanted to show it all again, when the crane broke loose yesterday.

Now, you can see it upright. And then just literally bends over backwards, slams into the side of the apartment buildings it's along side. That apartment building is an ultra luxury apartment building right in the center of Manhattan, 57th Street, right in the center of the island. And it is the tallest residential building under construction in the city right now.

That crane has stayed that way the rest of the day and the night, swaying back and forth in 60-mile-an-hour winds, just dangling there, prompting police to evacuate all of the surrounding buildings, including hotels, offices and apartments.

That hasn't stopped the crowds, though, gathering outside the evacuation area to get a look. Everybody wants to see it.

Alina Cho is OUTFRONT on the story.

Alina, do authorities have any sense on when they're going to be able to fix this?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, good evening.

That is the $64,000 question, isn't it? And everyone wants to know the answer.

Tonight, Mayor Michael Bloomberg did offer a glimmer of hope. He did say that that crane dangling 1,000 feet above the ground behind me, they're hoping they'll be able to secure it by tomorrow. Now, the plan, according to the mayor, is to somehow try to get ahold of that boom, and either tie it or cable it to the building.

The problem is, Erin, according to one crane expert that we spoke to today, is that he believes that this crane may actually be more damage than we think. Meaning that he believes that what he calls the climbing mechanism may be damaged. And that's the way to get up to the top.

Now, if that is the case, in his estimation -- listen to this -- they will actually have to build a second crane in order to fix the one that is damaged. Of course, everyone is hoping that that won't have to happen, especially the hundreds of residents and hotel guests who are evacuated from the seven-block zone. Many of them, all of them, in fact, are displaced tonight.

And, Erin, in fact, I did receive a text message from one of those residents, Matt Mazer (ph) is his name, who is displaced a couple blocks away at a private New York club with his family. He told me he just got word he doesn't believe he'll be able to get back to his apartment until Thursday. That family is incredibly concerned, especially since they have a 12-year-old daughter who has a pet parrot who is inside their apartment, and they are really concerned that parrot might not survive.

BURNETT: Alina, let me ask you a question as so many people say who is to blame here, how could this have happened. And we have the largest crane company in the world coming on after you.

But this isn't the first time, right, that this particular crane has had problems. Obviously, falling in 60 to 80 or even more mile an hour winds is a different thing. But this crane has had problems.

CHO: That's absolutely right. And that's what was so startling to us, Erin, when we started looking into this story this morning. And consider -- you mentioned this already. But keep in mind, we're talking about a trophy building. When completed, it will be the tallest building in New York City, 90 floors with top-floor apartments going for $90 million -- $90 million.

CNN has learned, according to the New York City Buildings Department, that there were actually at least two stop work orders issued on this construction site. One for leaking hydraulic fluid, the other for defective wire rope and an improper runway platform.

Now, we should mention, Erin, those stop work orders were fully rescinded. But in each case, it took about a week for that to happen.

BURNETT: Alina Cho, thank you very much for reporting on that crane story.

Frank Bardonaro is the president of Maxim Crane Works. It is the largest crane company in North America. And he's OUTFRONT tonight.

Frank, thanks very much for taking the time. I appreciate it.

Given what Alina is reporting, when do you think that this is going to be resolved? I know that you just heard her say they might actually have to bring a second crane up to get this crane down. But when do you think it will be resolved?

FRANK BARDONARO, PRESIDENT, MAXIM CRANE WORKS: Hi, Erin. Thanks for having me. I think that the issues on this site will be handled very well from the local contractor. The building has been erected safely. All of the issues you just mentioned from a mechanical standpoint really have no bearing whatsoever on this incident. It was purely an act of God. As you mentioned, wind speeds in the 60-mile- an-hour range, probably in excess of 100 up here with an updraft.

When you watch the video, it's clear. The video clearly shows it goes over backward. So I believe that these guys are experts in what they do, and as soon as they can get access to the machine, when the weather calms down a little bit, they will have it secured within a few days, I believe.

BURNETT: But what I don't understand is, you know, everyone knew this storm is coming. They didn't know for sure it was going to hit, New York, right? But, you know, I know it takes days. It may take even longer than that, to disassemble a crane like this.

But if you knew a storm like this might be coming, shouldn't they have taken it down? I'm get thinking question of liability. You have entire blocks of people not being able to go to their home, stores that can open, traffic diversion. This crane is causing a lot of problems.

BARDONARO: Right. Obviously the storm coming, they did know about it, and from what I understand, the city was going through precautions to ensure that all the crane was secured by the manufacturer's specifications. To take the crane down at 110 feet in the air would be similar to taking the 90th floor of the building. It's not really something you can do in that short time frame, even with a week's notice.

I think the bigger question that we're going to have is from an industry is what else can we do to prevent it, even with the high winds? You know, the crane is built to a -- withstand 90-mile-an-hour wind, I believe. And when we work in coastal areas at times, we do design the lifts to be made and withstand up to 140-mile-an-hour gusts. So that might be something the city takes a look at down the road.

BURNETT: And a final question. Let's just say it's dangling there and it falls. What happens?

BARDONARO: Well, I mean, the good news here is, nobody is hurt, and it hasn't fallen. The bad news, it's still dangling. So, if we take that and say, it is safe at this point, where it hasn't fallen, that doesn't mean it's secure, but it did fall over backwards and withstand the rest of the storm. So that's the positive news.

You know, now, we've got to hope the winds die down and the crews can get up there to get it up and dismantle it in a safe manner to prevent (ph). At this point, we've seen minor property damage on the crane. And if everything goes as planned, they'll be able to get it down without any further property damage or injuries.

BURNETT: Thank you very much. We appreciate your taking the time.

And New York City subways ground to a halt at 7:00 on Sunday. That was by choice, out of safety. But they haven't run since, stranding 5 million people who ride those trains every day and, frankly, shutting down one of the most vibrant cities in the world.

The Starbucks today still not open. Lots of restaurants open, but lots of other places not open because the people who work can't get to work.

Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it would be another four or five days before service resumes again. Downtown Manhattan saw some of the worst flooding, including at this parking garage where cars are literally floating in the water.

I mean, that's just -- that's an amazing scene, not a scene you expect to see in Manhattan.

David Mattingly is at a subway station near that parking garage in Lower Manhattan.

And, David, I know you've been today evaluating the subways, going in and out. What do you see?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing is a lot like what you saw in that parking deck. You look around outside right now, things look pretty dry. Cars moving around almost back to normal.

But the problems are all down below. There are seven tunnels that cross the East River for the subway. All seven tunnels took on water. And when you pump the water out, that's just one big job. Then you have to dry everything out.

This is saltwater. There's untold damage being done to the equipment that's been inundated down there. So, at this point, no actual date set on when they think that might be repaired and everything is back up and running the way it was before the storm.

But there are millions of people who depend on this system, and there really aren't a lot of good options until the subway gets back up and running.

Mayor Bloomberg was talking today about how the buses will start running tonight and into tomorrow for tomorrow's rush hour, but on a limited schedule. So they can't carry everybody. Also, there's going to be about 4,000 taxis still in the city. They hope that number will go up. Those taxis have been allowed to carry more than one fare at a time, but all of the carpooling in the world is not going to take care of those millions of people, again, that depend on those subways.

And the stations, like the one behind me, that is dark tonight. Everyone wondering when they are going to be able to get back on those trains.

BURNETT: David Mattingly, thank you very much. Something perhaps -- that can be the most important thing, everyone, to determine when New York City, the financial capital of the world, is actually able to be that again.

Up next, we did get a new CNN poll of polls today and it shows a very tight race. The question is now -- when you see two men on the screen, could Sandy tip it one way or the other?

Plus, a resident of a barrier island in New Jersey, one of the very last to evacuate, parts of his neighborhood now completely under water.

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BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT: the politics of sandy. Just one week until Election Day, the storm could wreak havoc on the neck and neck presidential race. But today, I mean, you might be forgiven if you didn't notice there was a new poll of polls, and that poll shows a dead heat -- President Obama at 47 percent, Mitt Romney at 48 percent. Again, that's a national poll, and this really may come down to state by state.

But today, a key Romney surrogate -- in fact, one of the first people to actually come out and endorse him, way before anyone else did, the man who delivered the keynote address at the Republican back in August said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The president has been all over this, and he deserves great credit. I've been on the phone with him, like I said, yesterday personally three times. He gave me his number at the White House, told me to call him if I need anything. And he absolutely means it.

It's been very good. It's been very good working with the president. And he and his administration have been coordinating with us great. It's been wonderful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So could Chris Christie's kind words, it's been wonderful for the other side do anything to tip this balance in a tight race?

Mo Elleithee serves as a senior spokesman for Hillary Clinton. It's Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008. Reihan Salam is a writer at "The National Review." And John Avlon, is a senior political columnist at "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast". He's in Nile, Ohio, aboard the CNN Election Express.

OK. Thanks to all of you.

Let me start with you, though, John. Some of the latest polls that were included in that poll of polls. Everybody, all we do is we take the major ones and we take an average. That's why there's no margin of error.

But, you know, you look petition Pew Research Center, 47-47. It's a complete tie. American Research Group, 48-48. And they all continue along that vain.

With numbers like that, John, could a small thing like Chris Christie coming out with a very serious and significant endorsement of the president's handling of the storm tip the race?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Listen, Erin. A race like this, this tight, every little thing matters.

This is a game of inches right now. This is a war of attrition. And we're seeing this in Ohio here. Both campaigns are focusing heavily on ground game.

So every little thing matters. And what if highly respected Republican governor like Chris Christie in a time of crisis has kind words to say, being honest, not doing the partisan talking points, but saying, you know what? It's been good to working with the president. We're working effectively. That reminds people that President Obama is the commander-in-chief.

So every little thing matters. And Chris Christie speaking honestly this morning probably helped the president a little bit.

BURNETT: Let me ask you, Mo, you know, President Obama is headed to New Jersey tomorrow. He's going to tour the destroyed zones with the governor. And, you know, he did last year during the storm, as well.

So it's not as if this is a new thing to do. This is what presidents often do. The timing, obviously, could be very helpful for him.

But do you think there's anything political in his choice to do it?

MO ELLEITHEE, FORMER SENIOR SPOKESMAN, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: No, I don't think it's anything political. I think it's completely presidential. It is what he should be doing in a time of a national crisis like this hurricane. And, you know, you hear Chris Christie, mayors, governors from the other affected states, al singing off the same song sheet, the president is doing what he needs to do. I think it speaks a lot to his commander-in-chief-ness, so to speak.

And it also does one really important thing, politically. It takes Mitt Romney out of the conversation. Here we are. One week out. And Mitt Romney is in this very it felt position, trying to figure out how he stays relevant in the 24-hour news cycle without going too far. And that's a very tricky place for him to be in.

BURNETT: Ryan, it's very difficult place for him to be in. I mean, you have to applaud someone like Chris Christie who is going to come out -- I mean, you know, the man says what he thinks, right? So he said what he thought.

REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We also know that Chris Christie is going to be running for re-election in 2013 and we also know that New Jersey is a state with a lot of Democrats, a lot more Democrats than Republicans. And so, it's really important that Chris Christie project that he is a bipartisan, compromiser --

(CROSSTALK)

SALAM: Exactly. And willing to work with the Democratic president and not going to shoot the guy down in the middle of something as big as a crisis as this.

So I think that Chris Christie is very shrewd, that he was telling the truth. And I also think he needs to project that he is more than just a partisan figure in a state like New Jersey.

BURNETT: That's an interesting point. Let me ask you this, though. Because during a few primary debates, FEMA had come up, obviously now fronts and center, and so now front and center and so far appearing to do fine and getting fine reviews. Today, he has said I'm going to get rid of FEMA. Today, he avoided a question, when someone followed up on that.

I just want to play that. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Governor, what should FEMA's role be?

REPORTER: Would you eliminate FEMA if you were president?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Reihan, let me just make it clear, he has said the states should be responsible for disaster relief instead of the federal government, i.e., FEMA.

SALAM: In the debate, it's very tricky. He did not say there should not be a FEMA. He was asked and suggested states and the private sector should generally be taking on more responsibilities from the federal government.

Now, what his campaign explicitly said on Monday is that, no, he would not abolish FEMA. But one thing to keep in mind about is this: FEMA takes care of a lot of disasters well below the level of a hurricane Sandy, including local floods and what-have-you. So, the thing is if FEMA could focus on big ticket events like this one, then it's possible it would be able to do its job better and if you handed states responsibility for lower level minor disasters that could be handled exclusively by the states, that's a legitimate question.

But I certainly think that Mitt Romney wouldn't want to abolish FEMA. He's made that very explicitly clear.

BURNETT: A model that might be interesting for health care but obviously a totally different conversation.

Mo, let me ask you this, and I want John to weigh in as well. A lot of key swing states have been hit by this storm but also in states that aren't hit, early voting is going on and their news cycle has changed somewhat. So, when you look at who this may help, the storm, in terms of early voting, what's your verdict?

ELLEITHEE: You look at a state like Virginia where several key jurisdictions just today announced that they were going to be extending hours for early absentee voting, that's a good thing, because there are going to be a lot of disaffected people that aren't going to have the chance as a result of the storm to get in there early.

But this is the million dollar question now. As John said earlier, we are in a game of inches and the early vote is going to be critically important as the number of undecideds dwindle. This is where the Obama, sort of the vaunted Obama ground game is really going to prove its mettle, not only by having secured all the votes they put in the bank up until this point but how they now transition their ground game to deal with this in some of the affected swing states.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to all three of you. We appreciate your time.

And now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360."

Hi, Anderson. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Erin. Yes, we have been out on the streets really for the last 24 hours since this storm hit. We were in Asbury Park last night. Tonight, we are on the streets of New York City.

By now you know this image very well, the building that the facade collapsed last night, an illegal hotel. It should have been just an apartment building but was being used as an illegal hotel. No fatalities in there.

We have seen dramatic rescues early this day and last night. In Hoboken, firefighters rescuing people as the water from the Hudson River came pouring in. I talked to the mayor last night. She was telling people if you live on the ground floor, get out, get to higher ground, get to that second or third floor.

We saw a lot of rescues. We're going to show you that at 8:00.

We also have seen Seaside Heights in New Jersey just decimated. The boardwalk obviously gone, sand as far as the eye can see. We're going to bring you that community.

Also, Breezy Point in Queens, 80 homes up in flames, homes packed very close, one to another, small alleys between and high winds just brought the flames from one house to another house to another house -- 80 houses in all. Again, no casualties or fatalities and that is a blessing. But for many people, their homes are gone and they have nowhere else to go. We'll bring you all of that, the latest, the aftermath of Sandy tonight at 8:00.

BURNETT: All right. Looking forward to seeing you in a few moments, Anderson.

And up next, a resident of New Jersey's barrier islands who got out just in time. He's next.

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BURNETT: Sandy hit New Jersey hard. New Jersey was in the center of the storm no matter how you look at it and the barrier island of Seaside Heights was overrun during the surge. Our next guest witnessed it firsthand.

Keith Paul was one of the last to evacuate before the storm hit and he joins us on the phone from Toms River, New Jersey. I know also there, flooded as well. The National Guard has been involved in evacuating people.

So, Keith, can you tell me how the evacuations are going?

KEITH PAUL, CNN IREPORTER (via telephone): It's going pretty well. The problem is the main highway, Route 37, that brings you over the bridge into Seaside Heights is completely flooded. There are boats sitting in the middle of the highway in front of the bridge. So it's very difficult to get over there. BURNETT: You know, it's a bridge I go over many times. Let me ask your sense now, is everything overrun with water? Has anything survived? I mean, I know obviously houses along the beach I've heard are completely gone and ripped off their foundations. But what about beyond that?

PAUL: Right now, you see there are some houses that are completely destroyed, on into the water. When I was over with the chief of police from Seaside Heights, Tommy Boyd, and a couple business owners up until 4:0 p.m. yesterday, watching the hurricane come in taking out Funtown Pier.

We left, we came over about 4:00. We were one of the last to make it across the bridge. At that point, the water just kept coming up with high tide last night. The Barnegat Bay and then the ocean and right in between is Seaside Heights, and the Barnegat Bay pushed into Toms River. So far, people are being evacuated out of second floor windows.

BURNETT: My goodness. And are there still people stranded in Seaside Heights? And people I knew there made sure they evacuated earlier, they were out. But I would imagine so many other places, there were people who tried to wait it out.

PAUL: Yes, there were. That's why you'll see in that footage I put up, there is all the ambulances lining the road with the National Guard going in, trying to get those people who did stay over there, out. Most people when I left yesterday about 4:00 p.m., the chief said he was 95 percent evacuated. I do know there were a few people, I know a friend of mine who did stay over there and I haven't heard from him yet today.

BURNETT: And a quick question, on the bay side, I know it's even lower than the ocean side there. Is it any worse?

PAUL: Oh, yes. On the bay side is where I live in Toms River. I live in the section called Silverton. One street away from me, the houses had water coming in them. If you go down to the end right on the bay, I mean, it's just -- boats are washed up in the middle of the highway, Fischer Boulevard, you can't drive down. There's boats -- it's just devastation everywhere.

BURNETT: Keith, thank you very much. We're glad you're out safe. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

New Jersey certainly hit the hardest by Sandy. Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you back here again at 11:00 Eastern.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.